Embrace ‘no.’ If the worst that happens is that someone tells you know, that’s a pretty darn good outcome in my opinion. You are free to move on to the next big person or next big thing.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Samantha Rudolph, the co-founder and CEO of Babyation, which a parent tech company that is unapologetically for moms. A Wharton grad, Sam spent a decade at ESPN where she launched a variety of products, departments and technologies. She is the treasurer of the St. Louis Breastfeeding Coalition and a lead mentor for Stadia Ventures.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Sure! A few years ago, I was on a ski trip with my husband, Jared. I happened to read an article that posed the question “shouldn’t the breast pump be as elegant as an iPhone and as quiet as a Prius by now?” Although kids weren’t on our radar at that point, I saw my future flash before my eyes, and I didn’t like what I saw. I shook Jared awake, climbed on my soap box about how hard it is for moms, and got really mad. Jared basically opened one eye and said, “I can build one.” The rest is history.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I love high pressure, fast-paced scenarios. That’s probably why I’m drawn to startups. Before this company, I worked in live television at ESPN. I staged a boxing match from the floor of the Consumer Electronics Show. It was crazy, beautiful chaos, and I loved every second of it. I know myself pretty well. I love when things are insanely busy. I love figuring things out. I love problem solving. But most importantly, I think I learned that no matter what happens, the world still spins. After the highest high or the lowest low, the next day you wake up, and you’re still you.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Babyation is proudly and unapologetically for moms. We’re more than just a breast pump company — we are for the woman using her pump and all that she goes through on her motherhood journey. I hope we stand out because of our authenticity and responsiveness to our consumers. At the end of the day, our mission is to make the world a better place for moms.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I wouldn’t be where I am without my village. My family. My friends. My husband. I believe the people in your life serve different purposes. There are people I go to when I’m feeling down and want a boost. There are people I go to when I know I need a kick in the behind. There are people I go to when I want to celebrate a victory. There are people I go to when I want to whine and be vulnerable. There are people I go to when I need help. I’ve been fortunate to have some great bosses and investors and people who believe in me in the various stages of my life.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
When I think of resilience, I think of a quote from Hamilton: when you knock me down, I get the f*ck back up again. That’s resilience in a nutshell.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Any startup founder is resilient. We are constantly told no, and yet we persevere. Babies are also incredibly resilient. Have you ever seen a baby learn a new skill? They do it over and over and over until they master it.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
I’m an entrepreneur…literally everything I do on a daily basis is something someone has told me was impossible! I like to say that you have to be audaciously optimistic to have a startup. You have to believe you can do something no one else can do, and you have to convince others that the impossible is possible. It’s really quite extraordinary.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
I’m pretty sure I was the last person in my college graduating class to find a job. I did my undergrad in business, and in that world, recruiting season is in the fall. If you don’t have a job by December, that was a sign that there was something wrong with you. Well, I was one of the few people to take a different career path. In media, you don’t start job hunting until after you graduate. It was definitely difficult carrying that stigma, but I landed a great position and ESPN, and ultimately, none of it mattered. Growing up, when I would get upset about something, my mom would ask me if it would matter in 5 years. That simple question taught me really great perspective, and I still ask myself that question when I have a setback.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I give a ton of credit to my parents. They told me how wonderful I was every night, both in terms of my actions and my qualities. On the flip side, they didn’t sugar coat — if I did something wrong, I knew it. If I do one thing right as a parent, I hope I’m able to strike that balance between building a tremendous amount of self-confidence while also teaching my kids to recognize a mistake, own it, make it right and not do it again.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Embrace ‘no.’ If the worst that happens is that someone tells you know, that’s a pretty darn good outcome in my opinion. You are free to move on to the next big person or next big thing.
- Know your worth. You are the only person that can define you. Having confidence is the best gift you can give yourself.
- Find your people. These are the people you go to on hard days, when you need a little booster. It starts with you, but we all need to surround ourselves with people who can pick us up when we need it.
- Learn to fail. We’re all going to screw up or have something not go our way. How we recover is what matters.
- Be grateful. I go to bed every night and list the people for whom I’m grateful. Beginning that ritual has been instrumental in better sleep (a must with two kids and a startup!) and improved perspective.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Hands down, the movement I want to inspire is one that makes the world better for moms. I think the “mom tax” is absurd. The challenges of new motherhood affect everyone, no matter how much money you make or what your skin color is. Having these conversations so that we know that we aren’t alone, that we are seen is priceless. My entire life right now, both business and personal, is about motherhood, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
That’s easy: Sara Blakely of Spanx. She built a huge business with a massive brand. Her How I Built this podcast was inspiring, and I love following her on Instagram. She’s a successful business woman, a mom, and she’s fun and approachable. 30 minutes with her would be life-changing.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
The best place to find us is @babyation on Instagram.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!